Nov. 6, 2022 – In the past 10 years, where governments at the local, state, and federal levels have acted in concert, there appears to be a disproportionate focus on legal prescription opioids, which in many ways are easier to control than illegal opiates. But, it’s important to properly distinguish between the role of illicit and prescription opioids in the current opioid crisis. Contrary to public perception, the problem of misuse, abuse, and diversion of prescription opioids has been much less of a factor in recent years than illicit opioids. A picture of a bottle of prescription painkillers often accompanies articles on drug overdose deaths, which creates an erroneous impression. 

Soon after the peak of prescription opioid prescribing in 2012, roughly a third of the 44,000 drug overdose deaths reported in 2013 were attributable to inappropriate use of prescription opioids. Since 2013, the percentage of drug overdose deaths that can be traced to inappropriate use of prescription opioids has diminished, in part because fewer are being prescribed. 


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